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Treatment for a kidney tumor will depend upon its size and the overall health of the patient. About 30% of tumors in this area are benign, but, since many of these can become cancerous, they are usually surgically removed. The first line of treatment for most cases of kidney cancer is surgery, either removing the tumor or removing the entire kidney. For patients where surgery may be too dangerous, several alternatives are available, including freezing or heating the cancer cells, various types of drug therapy, or a procedure to block the tumor's blood supply.
One of the surgical modes of treatment for a kidney tumor is called a nephrectomy. In a radical nephrectomy, not only is the kidney removed, but also a margin of healthy tissue and the related lymph nodes as well. Additionally, the adrenal gland may be removed if it looks like the tumor has spread that far. The surgery can be performed either through one large incision, or laparoscopically. A laparoscopic nephrectomy is administered through a few small incisions with the aid of a video camera and tiny surgical instruments.
The other type of surgery for a kidney mass is called a partial nephrectomy, which is the removal of the tumor from the kidney. This involves removing only the kidney tumor along with a small border of healthy tissue around it. Like a nephrectomy, this nephron-sparing surgical intervention can also be administered either through one large incision or through laparoscopic means. A partial nephrectomy is recommended when the tumor is small or when only one kidney is present.
Other options are available for treatment of a kidney tumor when surgery is too dangerous. A procedure called embolization may be used, which prevents the blood supply from reaching the tumor. Cryoablation may be considered, which involves cooling or freezing the cancer cells. Another alternative is radio-frequency ablation, which is the application of heat to cancer cells. Adequate long-term data regarding the safety and effectiveness of the latter two procedures has not yet been published.
Treatment for kidney cancer that has advanced or is recurrent can involve different means. Surgery will be employed to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Biological therapy, or drugs used to stimulate the body's immune system, may be used. Another choice is targeted therapy, which is medication used to block abnormal signals in cancer cells that lead to their proliferation. Chemotherapy, which is the use of drugs that eradicate cancer cells, may be used both before and after surgery.